Every food writer has one cuisine they don’t like writing about, and for us, it’s Mexican. We have too many bad memories of restaurants passing off Tex-Mex-meets-Punjabi as authentic. So we walk into XICO, Lowel Parel’s latest ‘progressive’ Mexican eatery, with the lowest expectations. Even a seasoned American chef from the popular Dos Caminos chain can’t break this city’s Mexican jinx.
Boy, are we wrong.
Located in Bombay’s culinary armpit of Kamala Mills, XICO offers a fun, vibrant setting devoid of the usual cacti-and-sombrero clichés. Instead there’s a lovely bar with detailed Aztec inspired tile-work, bright as corn yellow-and-green booths, and the smell of hot sauce in the air.
On our server’s insistence, we begin with guacamole and chips, made to order table-side and accompanied by three delicious dipping sauces (smoky, chilli-laced BBQ is our top pick). Table-side presentations can be a disaster, but happily, our man mashes those avocados with the precision of a Michelin-Star Chef Garde Manger, resulting in guac that is buttery-chunky-zingy with a spicy kiss.
Next up is Borrachos, hearty-meaty stew of pork and pinto beans (they do a vegetarian version too), accompanied by genuine corn tortillas; and escabeche ceviche – a crudo-style dish that marries local surmai (delicious and meaty like yellow-fin sashimi) with a smoky chilli-vinaigrette and pickled onions.
Around these parts, XICO is a very, very rare thing: a good Mexican restaurant.
Wash these down with a batch of cocktails from the excellent bar, including Xico Sour, a botanical, aromatic take on the classic, made with gin, star anise, basil and beet juice. And, if Bastian introduced the city to the pleasures of a Michelada, than XICO pretty much perfects it. Last but not least, order multiple rounds of Curendero – a tequila-spiked Penicillin served rather ingeniously in a white wine glass. This one little masterstroke magnifies the beautiful lemon and honeyed ginger aromas, giving the cocktail a bouquet akin to a well-aged Riesling.
Full from all the cocktails and snacking, we decide to order just one main – Arroz Frito De Pato is a decadent fried rice tossed with veggies, pork, confit duck and soy, topped with two sunny side eggs and house-made cotija cheese (think crumbly chana meets salty feta). This is easily the most satisfying carnivorous dish in town right now and yet more proof that a runny egg yolk always makes for the best sauce.
For dessert is tres leches, decadent with strawberry compote, coconut milk sauce, whipped cream and perfectly toasted almond slivers. If you’re feeling rich, cap this with a shot of Mescal –the single-malt equivalent of tequila – a rare treat that few bars in India stock.
Around these parts, XICO is a very, very rare thing: a good Mexican restaurant. If they manage to keep up this level of flavour and execution, especially when Chef Linquist heads back to NYC, they’re well on their way to redefining the city’s dining culture just like The Table or Bombay Canteen did.
Getting there: Ground Floor, Oasis City, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel. Call: +91 9819907059. Meal for two costs approximately Rs 4,500 with drinks.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
This review was conducted by Auroni Mookerjee, a freelance writer and chef.
Sponsored: Don't drink and drive. Take an Uber instead to XICO.
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